My first real foray into the world of local rail transit was my interest in improving Amtrak Cascades service to Portland – I had waited behind freight trains plenty on various trips, and I started trying to figure out why our local intercity rail service was so unreliable and slow. I found many projects listed by WSDOT as ways to improve Cascades, and one caught my eye – Point Defiance Bypass. Through a partnership with Sound Transit to extend Sounder to Lakewood, new track would offer a more direct route from Tacoma southward, removing passenger trains from the freight snarl, and cutting five minutes off my trip – more than any other single project offered.
In the intervening time, Central Link has gone from groundbreaking all the way to being open.
No, really. When I first heard about the Sound Transit portion of this project, I don’t even think that there had been any neighborhood meetings for Link yet. It’s been that long.
And a small band of people in Tacoma want to delay finishing Sounder even longer – for a new reason, almost like the last, but just different enough to spur a new round of editorials about ‘destroying’ a part of Tacoma that’s mostly a couple of surface parking lots and a freeway overpass. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself. In the upper right, Freighthouse Square, where Sounder currently terminates. In the lower left, the curve of the old railway to be reused. In between? A handful of businesses, empty lots, an interstate highway. A beautiful urban village to be ruined by a train.
Sound Transit will build an overpass for Sounder – and use earth embankments on either side of South Tacoma Way. The latest opposition tactic is to demand a concrete structure with posts instead – to offer a dry place for the homeless to sleep at night. They wring their hands at light rail’s neighborhood-friendly concrete pylons, and compare to their future pile of dirt, when of course Link was no different – it used earth embankments in several places as well.
Do I seem sarcastic? That’s because this is a farce. These are anti-transit activists drumming up opposition to Sound Transit through typical fear, uncertainty and doubt. They know Pierce County doesn’t have adequate transit service yet, and they know that if Lakewood gets regular rail service, a pretty large group of people will start realizing how useful this is.
Two completed stations sit waiting for Sounder service. This will offer help for commuters into both Tacoma and Seattle. The construction area is not walkable or pedestrian friendly, the benefit of transit service far outweighs any loss. Please, please stop listening to these people.